Despite his enthusiasm, officials at AIR were not really keen on Bedi’s chances with the British band. As Bedi recalled, “I told the radio to give me tapes and they were sceptical about it. Even when they were giving me the tapes, the office told me I wouldn’t get an interview with The Beatles. But while other members of the press were trying to figure out whether the team members went through the kitchen or lobby, I was with the manager, whose vulnerability I knew.” Bedi pursued the manager from the lift of the hotel in Delhi to the entrance area and kept asking for an interview. He added, “The manager kept ignoring me. Then I told him I was with the government’s All India Radio and that the government had scheduled an interview with The Beatles that night at 10. He exploded and told me that the boys won’t give an interview; I kept stressing on the fact that it was a ‘government’ matter.”
Bedi then explained the history behind his plan. Just before they came to Delhi, The Beatles had gotten into trouble with the government in the Philippines, when they had turned down an invite from Imelda, the wife of the dictator Ferdinand Marcos, to sing at a children’s birthday party. As Bedi said, “They were bad-mouthed, told to leave the country, and manhandled at the airport. I had read all these reports and knew that they wouldn’t want to mess with the government again, just after the Manila episode. Seeing my persistence, the manager gave up and told me he himself will do the interview, which, too, would have been good enough for me.”
But then destiny turned his foot-in-door moment into a full-blooded lottery. Bedi explained, “At the appointed time, when I went to meet the manager in his room, he was unwell. He then took me to a suite on the other side of the floor and told the ‘boys’, as he referred to the members of the band, to do him a favour, and give me an interview. That was it! I was in with The Beatles.” But, instead of being on the moon, Bedi received the rudest shock of his life after the interview. He recalled, “When I gave it to the radio, the backroom boy didn’t have an idea as to whose interview it was. So they put it on without any announcement or fanfare. I got an interview with The Beatles but didn’t get the glory or publicity. I was mortified; a few weeks later, when I went to ask for the tape, they told me something else had been taped over it. This was such a blow to my conscience and consciousness. That interview was broadcasting gold and I could have made a fortune selling it to any network.”
That forced Kabir Bedi to rethink his life and career prospects. He wrote down everything about his aptitude and figured out the right job for himself. He said, “That’s how I decided to come down to Mumbai–to be a filmmaker, not an actor. With just Rs 700 in my pocket and completely pissed off with the way I’d been treated by All India Radio. But in retrospect, I must thank God and AIR… if they hadn’t done that, all the things that happened in my life, may not have happened at all.”
The rest is history and an entertaining chapter in Kabir Bedi’s life and memoir. For more updates and anecdotes from Bedi’s life tune into his Times LitFest session with author Meghna Pant today at 5 pm.